If you’re after some different places to visit (perhaps it’s not your first trip to Tokyo) here’s three suggestions: Koenji, Shimokitazawa and Meguro. They’re all on train lines you can use your PASMO card on and easy to get to.
Be ironic and cool in Koenji
Koenji I popped out to briefly. It’s approximately 12 stops out from Shibuya on the JR Line. It’s alleged to be the hipster capital of Tokyo. I can’t confirm that but there is plenty of cool stuff going on there. It has plenty of little alley ways packed with bars, quirky stores, yakitori joints and nightlife in abundance. It reminded me of Kyoto a little bit, which is my favourite Japanese city bar none! There’s meant to be heaps of second hand stores and designers around here too. I came too late for the designers and too early for the nightlife, so it’s hard to tell. But the place is definitely cool!
You could easily spend a day out here. There’s little in the way of Tokyu Hands, Uniqlo and H&M which because frankly nauseating after the 18th visit. Apparently they are on their way with developers in tow. So the time to check out Koenji is now!
Go thrift shopping in Shimokitazawa
Shimokitazawa (it’s a mouthful I know, that’s shi-mo ki-ta-zawa) is something quite special. It’s maybe a few stops from the Shibuya Crossing train station yet worlds apart from Shibuya, or indeed Tokyo. When you wander around a bit it feels a bit more like smaller town Japan.
The draw card for Shimokitazawa is antique and second hand stores. Everything from 19th century Japanese antiques, to more kitschy stuff from the 50s and 60s. Probably a bigger emphasis on the kitsch. There’s heaps of American treasures too. One store was full of old beer signs from 1960s American pubs. Top that off with a load of second hand thrift stores, many stocking trendier clothes and there’s heaps to see.
Food wise there are heaps of coffee and wine bars around in walking distance from the station. There is an amazing sushi restaurant right outside the station (it’s all in Japanese. but it’s got a nautical theme and the wooden ceiling is covered in fishing nets). It was also dirt cheap for such high quality too. I think we paid under 4000 yen for two and we were both stuffed to the gills.
Indulge your aesthetic sense in Meguro
Catch the train back into Shibuya and then you can head out to Meguro. This is the interior design capital of Tokyo. There’s a 3 kilometre stretch of Danish furniture, stylish bric a brac and home wares. Despite what the Lonely Planet tells you, there’s about a 1km walk from the station before you get to the design stores. So don’t be discouraged. There’s a great mix of old and new stuff. All your Herman Miller and David Eames and any other designer worth a pinch of salt is there in abundance. Vintage English and Swiss stuff as well. If any of this resonates with you, then you need to check this area out.
There are some bargains to be had too. I found a linen backed full size Scarface movie poster for 5800 yen. There are some expensive US antiques similar to Shimokitazawa. One shop specialised in Motown and soul stuff. He seemed to have every beer sign ever hung in a black bar in existence!
My advice is to walk the whole strip because you’ll never know what you might find. When you start seeing car dealerships, like the very cool Flat Four specialising in VWs that’s the end of your journey. Catch a bus back to Meguro station and home you go with all your new goodies.